He's fumbling around, shifting through the trunk of the Impala. He was checking for something yes, but while the motions feel familiar and everything is right where it should be, he's lost track of his movements long ago. Knives, guns, materials for spells and summons, books. All right where they should be. And then there on the left, something not quite at home yet in the trunk of Baby. It's blinding despite fitting in with its surroundings, the dark muddy patches making it look just like any other unsaveable piece of fabric they had to ditch before. And yet...
He blinks, teeth digging into his lower lip, and forces his eyes away. A book. He was supposed to get that book for Sam and wanted to bring his shotgun in for a cleaning because he hasn't gotten the chance to yet. And salt rounds. He needs to stock up on those, too.
The slight pain of his lip popping is enough to pull him back, from tugging his mind into the here and now again. He stuffs the last piece of equipment he needs into his duffle bag. The noise of the zipper closing is too loud, even with cars zipping by the motel parking lot. While he shoulders it his eyes flit back to the left of the trunk one more time.
"I'm sorry, Dean."
He slams the trunk lid shut and leaves.
They're at the motel, packing up before leaving. Or more so Sam packing the last of his stuff into the trunk and Dean leaning against the side of the Impala, waiting so they can finally get back on the road. Get away.
"What do you say, we grab some grub on the road, Sammy?"
They made other plans. Previously. Not even an hour ago on the drive back to the motel. But suddenly he doesn't feel like staying here any longer than necessary. An itch he can't quite scratch.
There's an obvious pause, too long and yet not long enough before he replies, "Sure." The trunk shuts, and he can hear Sam walking to the passenger door.
Dean nods, more so to himself, and pushes off the car to open the door and gets in. He feels impatient, restless, not welcome or comfortable. Driving will make it better. It always does. Sam doesn't try to make conversation, flips through the pages of a book before turning to stare out of the window. There's silence for the first few hours, only broken by the music coming from the radio, not even a single question about when they'll stop for the food they both could've gone for not too long ago.
"You kept it."
He looks over at Sam, catches his expression and forces his eyes back onto the road. There's a sudden lump in his throat, making it more difficult than it should be to say, "A little more information, Sam."
"His trench coat."
"Thank you." Eyes moving, unsure. But then focusing on him. Just him.
"Yeah. So what about it?"
The tiniest bit of desperation, sadness, need in them. They've never been as deadpan as the rest of him. And Dean feels it hit him tenfold. "Both of you."
Silence again. He feels his hands tighten on the steering wheel, feels the simple bundle of fabric reverberate in the trunk, in his head and body. He can practically smell the stale blood on it. And god no, this is not simple. Never simple with- with what exactly even?
Sam's "Just wondering." leaves him an opening to respond, to ask why exactly he's wondering here and what about. To continue this conversation, to talk about this - him. Dean doesn't take it though and neither does Sam.
And when they turn into the drive through of some burger joint twenty minutes later, he doesn't even dig into him for ordering the most unhealthy option he can think of in the split second he gives himself to look at the menu.
The smell of fried meat and grease finally wipes the smell of blood from his mind.
"Can't believe he's making me ditch Baby. Like who does he even think he is?"
He stuffs another gun into the duffle bag, a machete, too, and then some more things. He has a system here. How is he supposed to keep track of everything when he can't see everything? This is so gonna backfire.
"Son of a bitch."
Sam left the job to him, left him alone so he could say 'goodbye' to Baby. And why'd he even think this would be a goodbye? Hell he's coming back here to get her the second their faces are theirs and theirs only again.
"You got everything?" He can hear the amusement in Sam's voice and he zips up the bag, more vigor in his movement than necessary. The bag's heavier than usually, makes too much noise when he shoulders it.
"'Course I do." He squints his eyes at Sam, hand pulling the trunk closed already, when he pauses. Should he?
"Uhm yeah. Just, you know, give me another second. Alright?"
And there's that look on Sam's face, like he's about to say something, question him, not leave. But then he smiles, shrugs his shoulders, says "Yeah, sure." and disappears.
Dean takes a deep breath, opens the trunk fully again and turns to stare into it. The trench coat is lying there, still bundled up the same way it was before. Not folded properly just wrapped up around itself and untouched since it's been put there. It's become a familiar sight, has found its home in his car. And he doesn't really want to disturb that, which taking it – touching it – would most definitely. Leaving it here, leaving it and him behind feels wrong though.
He runs his hand over his hair, hesitates. God, this is ridiculous. He's acting ridiculous. It's just fabric. It won't burn him and if he doesn't think too much it won't hurt him either. So he grabs it, presses it against his chest and slams the trunk shut.
When he joins Sam at their replacement car – it's an ugly thing – and places the trench coat in the trunk with maybe a little too much care, he's met with raised eyebrows.
"Don't say it, Sam."
The noise the trunk lid makes being slammed shut doesn't sound as pleasant as the one of the Impala.
Dean lifts his eyes from where he's sorting through the weapons in the duffle bag laying in the trunk, putting them back into their place from where some tumbled out when he'd hurriedly grabbed what he needed earlier. He's just not used to this car and set up.
Garth is standing there, holding out a knife - one of theirs, must have dropped from his pocket during the fight. He takes it.
"Neat collection." Garth grins, eyebrows wriggling in this way he has and Dean feels his own face slip before he can catch himself. What did he ever do for Bobby to do this to him?
He nods, lips stretched into a tight smile and drops the knife into the bag. He can feel Garth's presence still, too close, too there, too not his brother or anyone else he'd rather have here.
"What's that?" A hand reaching into the trunk, grabbing onto something and pulling. Fabric, beige and brown and Dean reacts on instinct.
"Don't!" He feels Garth wrist in his hand, the bones underneath his skin. Thin and weak and his grip is too strong. But he-
"I'm ashamed." Looking down like a child, guilty, caught redhanded with the cookie jar wide open and empty. Just a whole lot worse because this wasn't just about eating something you're not supposed to. "I really overreached."
He pushes Garth hand back, lets go of him. He feels too hot all of a sudden, reaches up to tug at his collar. "Just don't touch that. As a matter of fact don't touch anything."
"I'm gonna find some way to redeem myself to you."
"Sorry, amigo." Garth's hand reaches out, hand coming to close and Dean straightens up, takes a step back. He lifts a warning finger. "No. Not even me, Garth."
"I mean it, Dean." The gentle touch of a hand on his arm, then stronger, before slipping away again. Determination in his gaze. And he feels like he's not quite getting something here.
This could get weird - well, weirder but Garth just grins, shrugs his shoulders and wanders off again. Leaves him standing there and only then does he realize how hard his breath comes. He's had enough of these moments, memories, to not be frazzled by them anymore. But this. This was different. This was somebody not respecting this...boundary he'd set. One everyone he's usually with knows - two people, just two because when does he ever usually spent more than a hot minute with people other than Sam and Bobby anymore.
He swallows down the third name popping into his head and how heavy his chest feels all of a sudden.
"How about getting food, Dean?"
"In a second." He shakes it off and finishes his work.
Dean tilts his head back, lets his eyes slip shut. The cold air feels nice on his face, lets him forget the heat of the stuffy motel room, brings on the clammy feeling of sweat cooling on his skin.
He's not far from their room, from Sam, just a few steps away in the parking lot, leaning against the side of the car they are using this time. He didn't bother going further, didn't want to go further.
Usually he'd stay inside, just turn over again and go back to sleep – or pretend to sleep until he just can't anymore and gives up - but he's been drawn to the car more often lately.
And he knows why. Knows why he wants to be next to it. But it's just such nonsense. A flimsy excuse for comfort but still he's here because it makes him feel more at ease after waking up from splashes of memories and nightmares mixed with specks of hope that don't make sense in the slightest. But he's tired and after Bobby- after that he doesn't care enough to pretend that this isn't helping somehow. Some days he feels like he's losing his head.
He licks his dry lips, pushes off the car and turns towards the trunk. He hesitates a moment, then pops it open and there it is. Sits right where it should be in its place, next to a few books and still as dirty as it was left behind.
Touching is hasn't caught on, except for swapping it from one replacement car to another. But there are days when he's just overcome with the need to have it close by, to sit down on the edge of the trunk, right next to it. And it's not like they actually were like that often - just with each other, no need for immediate action, no tension. Just peaceful silence. But simply the general idea, the feeling of it, gives him comfort.
Something he really could use a lot more of.
Being there, watching him kill the demons, having him look like him but at the same time not at all is uncanny. He's not the same. Why would he be. He'd been gone, missing, dead. And he doesn't remember.
"We're friends?" Confusion. Then sudden clarity and something else. "Am I Cas?"
"I don't remember you, I'm sorry."
And Dean is so glad he kept his trench coat. Because even if it's still just in the trunk, it is the one thing constant in his life right now.
Watching him put on the trench coat over that weird old-man pullover is enough to bring a small smile onto Dean's face.
And when Castiel glances over, his expression even more sober than usual, Dean has to press his lips together hard. Because for a split second there, he feels the hot pressure of tears behind his eyes. He swallows it down.
"That's better now, isn't it?"
"It certainly fits." Cas brushes his hands along the front of the coat, straightens the collar. His eyes follow the movement for a second then he focuses back on Dean. "Meet me in Sam's room."
Before Dean can open his mouth, he's gone.
And Dean drops his head forward, can't help the short laugh bubbling out of his throat. This. This is what was missing, what he could've used at any point in the weeks since this mess kicked off. And he'll get to rejoice in it, take a hot second just for himself to enjoy this. Just as soon as they've gotten Sammy fixed up.
So he turns and slams the trunk lid closed, the spot where the trench coat used to sit, pleasantly empty again.